Foreign Policy Blogs

Fearmongering in a Scary Cyberworld

Ars Technica, one of my favorite geeky news sites, has a great scare piece on the Hobbsian state of nature in cybersecurity. (No, not this Hobbes. This one.) Go read it, and after deciding that eArmageddon 2.0 is on the way come back before you start building your disaster preparedness kit.

The report comes from a study by CSIS (hi guys! hire me!) funded by security giant MacAfee.

A Piper.

A Piper.

It paints a brutal picture of security online, which is entirely justified. However, remember that the one who pays the piper gets to request the latest Lady Gaga, and MacAfee is in the business of getting you to buy extra security software.

Such self-interested actors are very common in this field. Because cybersecurity involves those terrifyingly complicated machines called “computers” that make Area Men and Women around the world break out in anxious cold sweats, most of us don’t have mental filters that can balance against self-interested advice in the IT world. TV commentators are also paid security consultants; DoD analysts hope to increase their budgets.

Doesn’t mean the main message from this study is wrong, though. The online world is full of baddies, and you absolutely need to have an active firewall, current antivirus system subscription, and please for the love of God keep your computer up to date. Otherwise you’ve got about 4 minutes before you become one of the Infected.